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Suspect list narrowed down in 1982 disappearance of Kelly Bergh Dove

Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 5:55 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Harrisonburg Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit has narrowed down the suspect list from four people to one person in connection to the disappearance of Kelly Bergh Dove.

Dove, 20, vanished while working at the Imperial Gas Station around 2:30 a.m. on June 18, 1982.

“Where is she? Who did this? Why?” said her sister Elaine Bergh in 2022. “Will we ever find her?”

Harrisonburg Police Department investigated Kelly’s disappearance in 1982 and classified it as an abduction.

Police, for the first time, publicly released Kelly’s first of two 911 calls she made early that Thursday morning in 1982.

Kelly’s first call came around 2:27 a.m.

“I’m working the third shift at the Imperial Gas Station. I just had an obscene phone call. This guy came in earlier and he was kind of dressed improperly but I kind of ignored him. I think it was that guy because he just drove through the parking lot for a few seconds before I got the call. Could, you know, have somebody come keep an eye on me?” Kelly said to the 911 dispatcher.

Police said they dispatched an officer to the gas station.

Kelly called 911, again, around 2:29 a.m. While investigators did not release the second 911 tape, they said she described the vehicle the man was driving as a silver Ford.

When police arrived at 2:31 a.m., Kelly had vanished. Her belongings were untouched.

Police in 1982 interviewed suspects, however, no arrest was made. Years went by. Kelly’s case became cold. She was declared legally dead in 1989.

“The most challenging thing about this case is we don’t have Kelly,” said Brooke Wetherell of Harrisonburg Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit.

Wetherell is among the detectives at HPD who reopened Kelly’s cold case in 2020. Old evidence has been retested and the Harrisonburg Police Department have been working with Virginia State Police cold case analysts.

With a fresh set of eyes and using modern methods to investigate the case, police have been able to narrow down the suspect list from four people to one person.

On the first 911 call, Kelly describes an obscene phone call she received and a man dressed improperly.

Wetherell said early on in the investigation, detectives were able to draw a sketch of a possible suspect based on a witness’s account of a similar person wanted in connection to indecent exposures around the time of Kelly’s disappearance.

The suspect may have known Kelly and drove a vehicle similar to the one she described in her second and final 911 call. Police had worked with the DMV to collect vehicle information.

However, what makes this case more challenging for investigators is the suspect they narrowed down may not be the person in connection to Kelly’s abduction after all.

“You could have an outlier,” said Wetherell. “This could be part of a serial killing from someone who traveled up and down the East Coast in the 80′s. There’s always that possibility. So, for us, we’re combatting not only the local suspects that we have weeded out over the years, but forensics.”

The suspect, as sketched in 1982, was described as a white male, about 5'10", thin build, with...
The suspect, as sketched in 1982, was described as a white male, about 5'10", thin build, with dirty shoulder length blond hair.(WHSV)

Now, four decades after Kelly’s disappearance, police are racing against time to gather more information.

“We’re working against the clock,” said Wetherell. “This happened 40 years ago and the people we need to talk to are not always still around that’s going to run out before a statute of limitations ever runs out in this case.”

At this time, police only provided a sketch drawing of the suspect and did not provide a name.

Wetherell said the team at HPD investigating this case has been in regular communication with forensics labs about what materials can be tested before the decades-old evidence becomes too degraded.

“I do think we’re in such a position that we have so much more at our fingertips now that we’re in a better position to solve the case better than we have in the past,” Wetherell said.

However, for Kelly’s family, they hope anybody with information will come forward to police to clear their conscience.

“As far as a suspect, I have a gut feeling that it’s the right one,” said Elaine.

More than 14,000 days have gone by without Kelly, but her sister continues to hold out hope for answers and justice.

“Some people say, ‘Well, isn’t the hope gone? It’s been 40 years,’” Elaine said. “I don’t think the hope ever goes away. I think sometimes it gets distant for awhile and then you think, you gotta keep holding this hope. Keep the hope alive.”

Those with information about Kelly’s case should contact Detective Wetherell at 540-432-7788 or by e-mail at Leslie.Wetherell@harrisonburgva.gov. Tipsters can remain anonymous by calling Crime Solvers at 540-574-5050.

Wetherell said if you reported a tip at any point since 1982 and have not heard back from investigators, reach out again especially since the suspect list has been narrowed down to one person.

On Saturday, June 25, Elaine will be hosting a Kelly Bergh Dove Remembrance event at Wildwood Park in Bridgewater. The event is open to anybody to share stories about Kelly to keep her memory alive. Elaine said she and Kelly spent time at Wildwood Park when they moved to the area as little girls. It’ll be happening from noon to 3 p.m.

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